Dr Maurice Duggins

More than three dozen students from Wichita North and Wichita West high schools spent much of a recent school day getting a close-up look at what a career in the medical field might offer them as Ascension Via Christi held its inaugural MedEd Academy, an effort designed to introduce high school students to medical careers.

Ascension Via Christi left no room for the students to doubt their welcome. Hospital leadership lined the lobby of St. Francis hospital to cheer their arrival and they were welcomed by family medicine physician Dr. Maurice Duggins.

Duggins assured them that the time it takes to become a doctor is one reason often cited as a drawback to pursuing that degree. 

“In eight years, you could be starting a career with a medical degree,” he said. “You’d be 26. I assure you 26 is still pretty young.”

The students broke into small groups to rotate through educational presentations to learn more about respiratory therapy, radiology and nursing.

For the students worried about how long it would take before they could get a job, they were provided assurance they could start to work now in the nursing field.

A high school student who is 16 or older can be hired as a patient-care technician working under the supervision of Ascension nurses.

St. Francis staff even provided info about submitting applications on the spot, pointing out they could be learning on the job, earning money and even qualifying for scholarships to continue their education.

Syliva Orozco-Do, a doctor at the hospital, told the students about coming to the U.S. from Mexico to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor.

“Never give up,” she told the students. “I could have given up when I became a certified nurse’s aide, but that’s not where I wanted to stop. I became a nurse and then I became a doctor. I encourage you not to give up, no matter what stands in your way.”

“As a West High graduate, I know how scary it felt to think about going into the healthcare field,” said Allan Thomas, director of Respiratory Therapy. “That’s why it is so important to get them into this space, provide them with information about how they can get started and encourage them to continue to explore their options.